Questioning the Expressive Therapies

Early_Autumn_ColorThis past weekend we were in Montreal for an Expressive Therapies training. Oddly, it quickly became evident the presentation would largely ignore the experiences of persons of color, First Nations people, and those with disabilities. At about the time Jennie and I were becoming concerned about the direction the training was taking, a woman further back in the audience asked about places of intersection between Narrative ideas and Cognitive Behavioral approaches to the Expressive therapies, and about liberatory practices. Her questions were never really answered, leaving me to wonder whether the approaches might be incomparable. Continue reading

Medicine Wheel: Into the West

Poke_BerriesThis evening marks the Autumn Equinox. As is our custom, we will gather with friends to note the changing seasons, to explore our journey around the Medicine Wheel, and to express gratitude to Mother Earth and Grandmother Water.

For the past several years the equinox has preceded the first frosts, a lived experience of climate change.  (I can remember when frosts came in mid-September, even near the lake.) Surprisingly, last week brought the first frosts and freeze, although, as we live near the lake, most of our plants survived. This week promises a return to late summer. Traditionally in New England a warm spell following the first freeze is termed, “Indian summer.” Indian summer may offer long weeks of warm sunny days and cool nights, as well as the occasional tropical cyclone complete with drenching rains. The past few weeks have been remarkably dry and we find ourselves hoping for those prolonged autumnal rains.

Indian summer reportedly was so named because the Indigenous people of New England spent those last gentle days of early autumn gathering berries, drying corn and game, and otherwise securing food stocks for the winter. Even so, winter was a challenging time.  Preserved food stores seldom lasted the winter, and if the weather was harsh, hunting and fishing might be difficult or impossible. Hunger was routine, and starvation a real threat. Even so, this late season warmth also lent itself to feasts and play, the return of warm weather offering an opportunity for both preparation and socialization.

I grew up among subsistence farmers. We made our weekly trips to the local big box grocery, but our purchases, aside from meat and dairy products, supplemented whatever we had canned or frozen from the garden. Those ancient subsistence practices remained central late into my parents’ lives. My uncle died in an accident while hunting raccoon that would surely have ended up on the dinner table.

I was taught only to take as much as I could use, whether I was fishing or attending a church supper. As we enter the West we are reminded that life and resources are finite, that we must provide for the next generation,  and that we have an obligation to give back to our families and communities. Here in the West we are invited to be adults and to care for the young and the elders. We are encouraged to remember the past and to honor those who prepared the way for us.

In Indian summer we are reminded that soon we will enter the North and prepare for our journey to the next life. We are asked to prepare a place for those who will follow after us, those who have not yet been born. Hopefully, we take time to savor the goodness of the harvest, to play with loved ones and friends, and to express gratitude to Mother Earth and the Creator.

As the leaves slowly turn, we acknowledge the changing year and look forward to the holiday season that will soon follow. Come February, we will sit at the table, seed catalogs in hand, plotting out next year’s garden as generations have done before us. For now though we can enjoy the sun and warmth of early autumn, taking pleasure in the brilliant folliage. Surely, it is a good time to be alive.


Honoring Grandmother Water

Maine_ShoreSummer has passed; autumn begins Tuesday. For now we live in the gap between climate and astronomy. Here in Northern New England autumn jumps well ahead of the sun; spring usually lags behind. Fall is often a time of water, the autumn rains refilling the lakes and aquifers for winter. In the cycle of the Medicine Wheel it is the time of Water, Emotion, and Dreaming.

The fall has been dry so far, the gardens need rain. Many gardeners around the region will likely see the growing season end tomorrow night. Here, right up against the warmth of the lake, the killing frost is often much delayed. Our garden have some time before the first freeze comes sometime in October, and rain would be most welcome. Continue reading


Autumn-BerriesThe weather has turned damp and chilly, with the temperature only in the mid-fifties. A couple of days ago the first Titmouse of the season landed on the garden fence and looked into our window with that classic  “Why is the feeder empty?” look. Fall has certainly arrived!

A few nights ago I dreamt about prophesy. In my dreams I longed to heal the world, to stop our country’s headlong dash towards Darkness. Then, near the time I awoke, my vision turned inward and I saw my own inner suffering and turmoil. In the dream I was shown that I have limited influence on the larger world, but I might have great influence in my inner domain. Continue reading

The Spirit of South Wind

South_Wind_WavesYesterday, Grandfather South Wind blew strongly for much of the day. In the evening Jennie and I packed a picnic and headed for the lake. Jennie had noted that we would not have many more opportunities for our beloved picnics this year, so off we went.

When we arrived at the lake the South Wind tugged at our plates, and kick up waves large enough to body surf on. The South Wind takes many forms, from the gentle breezes of early spring to the gales of autumn. It is now, in early autumn, that I feel closest to the South Wind, for now he drives the warmth before the cold. In the day or two preceding each cold front the South Wind whips up the lake, pushing big waves before him, and forcing water into the south-facing bays.

I say “he” as there is something distinctly male about the South wind of autumn, compared about the female winds of early spring that bring the thaw and awaken the green ones. The autumnal South Wind bears tidings of dramatic change, immediate and unstoppable. He calls all to awaken and prepare for winter, brings down leaves and branches, and fills the sails of late season voyagers. Continue reading

In the Presence of Good People

Red_LeavesThis evening our neighborhood gathered for our yearly picnic. The evening was cool, the sunset golden, and the mosquitoes held off til deep twilight. The lake was perfectly still, deep blue, and just slightly reflective of the fiery clouds that lay atop the mountains. Around 7:30 the full moon rose over the hill and rooftops, accompanied by flocks of geese heading home to roost. Continue reading

In Wilderness Is the Preservation of the World


A few days ago I wrote this for “Wilderness Week” at Bardo. Then, the other evening, while looking at a book of Porter photographs, I saw one of the same view as mine of the tidal marsh and mountains. It is a remarkable vista.

Originally posted on THE BARDO GROUP:

Tidal-Marsh I came of age with Eliot Porter. Not literally of course. Rather, my adolescence and young adulthood were accompanied by his books and photos. He taught me how to look. Even now, his photographs influence my writing and visual work.

A few weeks ago we were in Downeast Maine, north of Bar Harbor. Every few days we drove south, down Penobscot County way. Eliot Porter spent much time in the Penobscot region, as well as out West. Out West, his photos were panoramic. Downeast, they were more intimate, capturing a brook, leaf, or pod of berries. If memory serves me, his iconic book and homage to Thoreau, In Wilderness is the Preservation of the Earth, drew heavily from his Penobscot experience.

People tend to think of wilderness as vast tracks of untouched ecosystems. Yet in ourWater_Striders time, there are few such places. Climate change and other forms of pollution…

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